Editor's Note


March/April 2008


With global warming constantly in the news, we've become uncomfortably aware that our ordinary daily habits of consumption and all the comforts of modern civilization we take for granted are inexorably throwing Planet Earth permanently out of whack. Actually, at this point, it makes more sense to acknowledge that we're the ones out of whack—our much- vaunted technology and can-do Zeitgeist disastrously out of synch with the rhythms of nature that make our lives possible. But if global warming is the macrocosm of our growing disjunction with the natural world, the microcosm may be represented by our fraught relationship with sleep.

In "Nightmind" in this issue, Rubin Naiman reports that 76 percent of American adults have trouble sleeping at least a few nights every week, and that chronic insomnia afflicts from 15 to 20 percent of the population. Why is it becoming so hard for us to get some shut-eye? Naiman argues that the primary culprit is our disjunction from the circadian rhythms of life as we grow increasingly immersed in our constantly illuminated, 24/7 lifestyles. In a relentlessly stimulating culture of producers and consumers, we're all expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed all the time. We treat the fact that our retrograde bodies still require a certain number of hours for sleeping and dreaming—for just lying there doing nothing—as a kind of biological design flaw to be overcome.

There is, of course, a weird irony to all this. As a…

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